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December 17th, 2012
03:02 PM ET

My Take: Praying for questions about Newtown that go beyond ‘Why, God?’

Editor’s note: Margaret Feinberg is a popular speaker and author of numerous books, including “Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God,” which releases on Christmas Day. Follow her on Twitter @mafeinberg.

By Margaret Feinberg, Special to CNN

Why, God, why? Why do you allow the horror of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School?

Why do you allow the loss, pain, terror, heartache and death? Why do you allow evil to triumph and innocence to be stripped away? Is this kind of evil stoppable? And do we have some role to play?

In the wake of so many unanswered questions, what kinds of questions do we really need to be asking? Are you cajoling us to ask how we can prevent this from happening again? Is the answer found in gun regulations, better security or deeper changes in our own hearts and lives?

Does preventing these kinds of crimes actually begin with us? If we had more compassion on those on the margins - those who wrestle with the demons of mental illness and social exile, who may be pondering violent acts at this very moment - can we prevent this horror from happening again?

My Take: Obama's Newtown remarks show pastor-in-chief

Are you prompting us to search our own lives and hearts to identify who we need to recognize that we’ve overlooked? In our families? Neighborhoods? Schools? Workplaces? Communities? Retirement homes?

Who are the kids and adults being shoved to the sidelines of life on whom we need to extend compassion? Where have our arms been too short, our hearts too closed to embrace?

Is this a potent reminder that our call is to be more sensitive to those who feel unloved, marginalized, shunned from our society? Are you awakening us to the fact that we all play a role in these matters?

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Have we helped create troubled souls like Arizona gunman Jared Loughner, Colorado gunman James Holmes and now Connecticut gunman Adam Lanza through our failure to extend kindness to those who need it most?

What are the words we need to learn to say not just with our mouths but our actions? Are you challenging us to express, “I love you!”;  “You matter!”; “You’re good at that!”; “We’re glad you’re here!";  “Want to join us?” or something more?

Will you grace us with the courage to extend a love we do not have on our own?

Why does it seem that before we can change, we need to encounter you? Will you give us eyes to see those who feel invisible, ears to hear their cries for help and hearts broken for victims who prey on victims?

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How can we reflect you and your love during this difficult time? Will you pour out your grace, strength and love on those who have lost so much? Will you wrap your arms around them? Will you be with them in a tangible way?

Will you give them unexplainable peace? Will you do something miraculous? Will you unleash your redemption and restoration in this situation? Will you take prayers we’ve offered this week and make them habits of our hearts?

Will you do what only you can do, and take our breaths away again? Will you astound us with the wonder of who you are in the midst of that which makes no sense? Will you draw us all closer to you and to each other through this time?

In the wake of your love, will you teach us what better questions we need to ask and how we need to respond? Will you help us, oh Lord? Will you let it be so? Amen.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Margaret Feinberg.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Opinion • Prayer • Violence

soundoff (1,166 Responses)
  1. James Mickel

    Nice job marginalizing an awful tragedy into an opportunistic rambling for God.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  2. A Messinger

    Well said Margaret.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  3. Apple Bush

    It is the Age of Aquarius. Time travel will soon be available to us and the Shamans will come out of hiding to facilitate our journeys through time.

    Jesus will then be able to realize the second coming and 2012, the I Ching, will tear open the gates of Armageddon. A new age is upon us.

    This is true, because I have faith that it is and also it is written down.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Akira

      When the Moon is in the 7th house
      And Jupiter aligns with Mars....

      December 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  4. charles darwin

    I just don't get people's reasoning.

    Why should god help them with their suffering after allowing mass shootings to take place in the first place?
    It makes no sense whatsoever. Don't you get it by now?
    Are people so hopeless that they can't cope with pain without leaning on an invisible made up creature?
    It just irks me when I keep reading about praying to god for help when obviously there is nothing there.

    I'm not trying to be cruel to those that need help, but just don't make such a big issue out of it for the rest of us that don't believe it and prefer to use common sense and reason to help ourselves cope with life.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • jajabinky

      This is a valid concern! and statement! but for those of us who do believe in God. What should be the prayer that prevents this tragedy? "DEAR LORD. Please take away the free will of the 100 people, whose decisions lead to this tragedy. Please make them robots, please make them do what I say so this doesnt happen."

      Do you see the problem? The only way to prevent this tragedy is to take away the free will of the people whose EVIL decisions caused this.

      Why would God answers prayers that basically would equate to people losing free will?

      vs. a prayer which says: "Please lord, let me heal from this sickness quickly." do you see the difference? one prayer would have God take away the free will of others, while the second prayer is for quicker healing. big difference

      like the president said last night... "the reasons for this tragedy will be complicated" and no one persons

      December 17, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  5. Ray

    At one time this nation beleived "IN GOD WE TRUST". Now it seems this nation is in transition "in man we trust". Very BIG mistake.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      Uh oh! I'm scerred!!!

      December 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      God has not shown himself to be trustworthy.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Tony

      Ofcourse, from the countries founding until 1956 that saying didn't even exist. It was added because the country was afraid of communists.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • What?

      That was NEVER an official motto until the 1950's. When segregation was at it's highest

      December 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • @Ray

      The motto should be "In We The People We Trust" Not god.

      December 17, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • jajabinky

      "In the People We Trust" – that is hilarious! BECAUSE THE MAJORITY ALWAYS CHOOSE WHATS RIGHT... I would like to reference Nazi germany. The majority was right there? right?

      December 17, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  6. He apparently loves kids

    What do you expect from a loving god that comment mass genocide with the flood. Sent bears at Elisha's request to maul 42 kids and proceeded to destroy JOB and his life over a bet with the devil. BTW he restored Job's cattle and crops.....but he never did give him children back. Not so loving of a god.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • TJ

      Above... ignorance speaks as one revels further in it.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • @TJ

      Don't worry TJ. The Atheist will read the bible for you. Go back to your moonshine. Praise be to Jebus.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  7. jajabinky

    God did not make us robots. He gave all of us free will.

    this tragedy is simply a ramification of evil being chosen over good.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      So god didn't know it would happen. Got it. Why do you call him god again?

      December 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      what about the free-will of the kids not to be slaughtered?
      why does god only give free-will to the criminals and not to the victims?

      December 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • jajabinky

      @thomas – your statement isn't even relevant to my comment. God knows what will happen. but he isn't going to make you into a robot so that you don't do it. It's like watching a wedding video. You know what's going to happen in the video when you watch... it doesn't negate the fact that the time it was recorded everyone in it had a free will to do whatever they wanted.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "He gave all of us free will."

      Whether we wanted it or not.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • jajabinky

      @cedar – What about 5 million jews and 5 million christians which were slaughtered during WW2? And the millions of others who died on ALL sides combined in WW2. It is ALL a result of humans exercising FREE WILL to choose EVIL. Would you rather us all be robots? With no decision making abilties at all?

      December 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'It is ALL a result of humans exercising FREE WILL to choose EVIL. Would you rather us all be robots? With no decision making abilties at all?'

      I ask the same question...what about the free-will of all those killed not to be killed? why is it god only allows the criminals free-will?

      Mind you the whole concept of free-will under a god is a myth anyway. If he knows everything that has, is, and will, happen then he already knows every seccond of your life before you are even born. You dont have free-will, you just go through a predetermined path through the maze of life.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • jajabinky

      @cedar – you can take God out of the conversation if you want. If you think this situation is as simple as "Video game violence", "tv violence", etc... you are a fool. We live in a selfish society. All of those SELFISH decisions and choices have consequences. If you think you are free from all guilt of bad things happening in this world you are also a fool.

      December 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Pat

      Why do you keep avoiding the question of the children's free will? Are you seriously saying they "chose" to be slaughtered?

      December 18, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  8. Joe

    The weeping and mourning going on in our nation over this horrific event reminds me of the story of when Jesus was a baby. King Herod put to death all male children ages 2 and under living in Bethlehem and it's surrounding districts. Our world was messed up in the days of Noah, messed up in the days of Jesus and is still messed up today. When we take God out of our schools we allow everything else to come in. God knows the pain we go through but do we know the pain we put God through? God knows the feeling of having a child murdered. He's not to blame. This world is so messed up, you can see why God sent us a Savior- This world is so messed up, you can see why God sent us his Son. God please comfort these families in the comfort of your return. You've came at Christmas before, come back now. Amen

    December 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Katie K

      There is no "god". "gods" are created by men. This was the act of a potentially mentally ill individual with too-easy access to firearms.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Red

      Thanks for those thoughts, Joe – they give me comfort & hope as a parent & person of faith.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • DrJStrangepork

      What you have written is one of the most offensive thing I have read. You pretend to take the pain of these people and say "don't just thing about your loss, think of what we have done to God." You are the worst type of person.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Joe

      @ djstrange. Where does it say "don't just thing about your loss"? If my child died I woulnd't want someone to say that. That is the most offensive thing someone can ever say. If you think that is what it meant my apology I didn't do a good job of explaining. Sorry you took it in a negative way.
      @ Katie K you wrote "There is no "god". "gods" are created by men". Would you tell the grieving parents that at the funeral service?

      December 17, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  9. jajabinky

    This evil happens because humans have free will. To choose good or evil. When people choose evilt this is what happens.

    It could of been a 1000 things that contributed to the shooter going on a rampage. People choosing to be mean to him, people choosing to ignore him when he acted wierd, people choosing divorce over commitment, people choosing themselves over others.

    Every time you make a selfish decision, you too could be contributing to a tragedy like this. DON'T BE SELFISH, you have the free will to choose good. If someone is in need help them, if someone looks like they need help notify others... don't shrug it off.

    Our society glorifies MEMEME and selfish decisions, and then wonder why tragedies like this happen.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      So god didn't know it would happen. Got it. Why do you call him god?

      December 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Pat

      What did those children do to the shooter?

      December 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  10. Annrafnk

    She asks a lot of questions !

    December 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  11. Rob

    There is no such thing as god... Get over it.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Simon

      That's not the point. God may not be real, (I'm Atheist) But the point this woman is trying to make is still plausible. And my cousin was in that shooting. He survived, but he was still scared as hell. And, for the record, mister, I'm 12.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Jake

      Is that what your going to say out the funeral service for these kids? Is that what your going to tell t he parents?

      December 17, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  12. Danny

    There is no god.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Daniel in Denver

      Danny, you are almost surely correct. However, it's impossible to prove a negative – so I recommend you slide over to accuracy. "There almost surely is no god." This will differentiate you from those who state, "There is a god" with absolutely no proof of it.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Jake

      Is that what your going to say out the funeral service for these kids? Is that what your going to tell the parents who just lost their child? Go post somewhere else Dan.

      December 17, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  13. Apple Bush

    If you consult the dictionary, here is the first definition of God that you will find:

    "A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.

    Most believers would agree with this definition because they share a remarkably clear and consistent view of God. Yes, there are thousands of minor (and some major) quibbles about religion. Believers express those quibbles in dozens of denominations - Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists and all faiths. But at the heart of it all, the belief in God aligns on a set of core ideas that everyone accepts.

    What if you were to simply think about what it would mean if there were a perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe? Is it possible for such a being to exist?

    Epicures thought about it in 300 BCE, and he came up with this:

    "The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so, cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are both able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can, but will not, than they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, then they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, how does it exist?"

    In other words, if you sit and think about who God is supposed to be, you realize that such a being is impossible.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Katie K

      Well said.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • LinSea

      Epicures' reasoning is only valid if he was coming from the perspective that life is supposed to be without trouble, worry, or sadness. In my beliefs, God allows rain to fall on the just and the unjust. It isn't to punish or torment, but to give me the opportunity to learn from the experience and to grow stronger for having gone through it. I can choose to become bitter and angry from the bad things that have happened, or I can learn to become more caring about others and become a better and stronger person, and He will help me become that person if I ask.

      December 17, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Pat

      @LinSea

      And what did those innocent children learn?

      December 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  14. beders

    How can people in this day and age still believe that prayer does anything? Or that a god exists in the first place?
    You can't get around the problem of evil in the world and still believe in your loving god.
    It doesn't make sense.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  15. TM

    Jesus, were you just around the corner?
    Did you think to try and warn her?
    Were you working on something new?
    If there's an order in all of this disorder
    Is it like a tape recorder?
    Can we rewind it just once more?

    "Wake Up Dead Man"–U2

    December 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Who listens to U2?

      December 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Perfect lyrics for this situation. Thanks for the quotation.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      My wife. :(

      December 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I force my partner to listen to Captain Beefheart on pain of tickling.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  16. MikeyMikey

    How difficult it must be to have to retrofit facts to one's primitive beliefs, as opposed to accepting the far more likely scenario that "stuff happens"; some of it good, and some of it bad. It's the 21st century. Won't you join us?

    December 17, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      It's obviously difficult, which is why the debate is always so one-sided.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • asiin

      "Stuff happens. Some of it good some of it bad."

      Why do you believe in primitive concepts like good and evil? Don't you know that concepts like good and bad presupposes that humanity has a purpose and therefore a creator God? Embrace the logical consequences of a Godless universe which is one which does not recognize good and bad. Feel bad for children dying? Is your stomach so weak that you must comfort yourself with baseless concepts? Its the 21st century. Won't you join us MikeyMikey?

      December 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Don't you know that concepts like good and bad presupposes that humanity has a purpose and therefore a creator God?'

      no its doesnt, not even close. How on earth does your logic equate good and bad must therefore equal a god? what a bizarre argument.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • SLoRider

      @asiin

      - good and evil still exist of course – but it's humans that have to work it out, not some God machine. It's a big responsibility but one we have to take.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • asiin

      the concept of "good" presupposes purpose. to say something is good is to say it possesses the traits such that it serves its purpose (ie it does what its supposed to do). being bad is merely the negative function of good; it is the absence of such traits which allows something to serve its purpose. therefore, if there is such a thing as a good human, it means that humanity has a purpose: a reason for coming into existence. do not confuse this with goals created by humans in which they find reasons for wanting to continue to exist. goodness presupposes that humanity has a purpose in the sense that it was created for a reason. this is why i say that the concept of good and evil is a function of believing in God.

      For further clarity try reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra or the Parable of the Madman by Nietzsche

      December 17, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  17. Mr. B

    Understanding this tragedy has nothing to do with asking God the right questions or looking to any system of faith, unless it is based on science and facts. The sad fact is that this young adult was mentally ill. Until we fund and treat mental illness, take mental illness as a generating factor to the degredation of our society, we will not know any of the answers. You see it is not about asking God the right questions through prayer, it is about asking ourselves the right questions on how to treat the mentally ill population, through pro-active measures that change policy, law and governance of our society.

    Although any of these questions are so difficult and after such a horrible tragedy even changing policy, changing laws, changing how we as a society help the mentally ill population, the potential for more tragedy is always the next horror. I may not pray to a specific God or Gods, I may not have a faith system that matches your own, but why I do have and hope to convey is my love for humanity, my love for those who are mentally ill and those that are not. My love and compassion for finding a way to better understand portiions of our society does not have to deny any religious faith or belief. Let's work together, faith or no faith, towards a common good. Stand with me on common ground, bringing together intellect from those of religion and those within the scientific realm, setting aside differences, so that we can grow society in a more positive footing for the next generation.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • cols

      Well said, Mr. B.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • SLoRider

      it's a fair guess – but we actually don't know if he was truly mentally ill or not. We may never know. Some people are completely with it but lacking a moral component that allows atrocity which is technically different from mental illness

      the problem is that if you simply claim he must have been mentally ill to do this that stigmatizes true mental illness and makes it that much more difficult to have effective mental health reform in this country, which is as badly needed as gun law reform.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  18. SLoRider

    I don't see why this comes up anew for every national tragedy... If you are a Christian then look a little bit at the theologians that have been addressing the problem of Evil for HUNDREDS OF YEARS (answer = free will + fallen world). And if you are not a Christian well then it's not an issue is it?

    Of course the real reason Christians always have to ask why God is because the church's answers ring hollow and false and every feeling person recognizes the disparity between faith and reality.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  19. BKNY

    Religion is an insult to human dignity.
    With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things.
    But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • MikeyMikey

      Brilliant. Sad. And true.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • ttwp

      But for evil people to do good things, it takes Christ.

      December 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • BKNY

      Believe what you will. Was christ walking beside that "good christian" as he murdered those innocent children?

      December 17, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  20. g8rjtr

    So many innocent children are killed because we took God out of schools?
    Funny, because notice what happens in Catholic churches.

    December 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • sybaris

      Now THAT's an uncomfortable truth

      December 17, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.